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Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Blue Jay

Cyanocitta cristata ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: CORVIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Blue Jay Photo

This common, large songbird is familiar to many people, with its perky crest; blue, white, and black plumage; and noisy calls. Blue Jays are known for their intelligence and complex social systems with tight family bonds. Their fondness for acorns is credited with helping spread oak trees after the last glacial period.

ML Essential Set
Be a Better Birder Tutorial 3

Keys to identification Help

Crows and Jays
Crows and Jays
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Large crested songbird with broad, rounded tail. Blue Jays are smaller than crows, larger than robins.

  • Color Pattern

    White or light gray underneath, various shades of blue, black, and white above.

  • Behavior

    Blue Jays make a large variety of calls that carry long distances. Most calls produced while the jay is perched within a tree. Usually flies across open areas silently, especially during migration. Stuffs food items in throat pouch to cache elsewhere; when eating, holds a seed or nut in feet and pecks it open.

  • Habitat

    Blue Jays are birds of forest edges. A favorite food is acorns, and they are often found near oaks, in forests, woodlots, towns, cities, parks.

Range Map Help

Blue Jay Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult

    Blue Jay

    Adult
    • Gray and white underparts
    • Black collar
    • © claire06010, Bristol, Connecticut, November 2008
  • Adult

    Blue Jay

    Adult
    • Long and sleek
    • Long barred tail with white corners
    • © Juno Photography, Ohio, November 2008
  • Adult

    Blue Jay

    Adult
    • Blue and white patterned wings
    • © naturelover2007, Ontario, Canada, November 2007
  • Adult

    Blue Jay

    Adult
    • Crest, back, and wings bright blue
    • White face with black markings
    • Heavy black bill
    • © Maria Corcacas/PFW, December 2008
  • Fledgling

    Blue Jay

    Fledgling
    • Gray and downy overall
    • Distinctive wing and face pattern already apparent
    • © Kevin Carver/PFW, December 2008
  • Adult

    Blue Jay

    Adult
    • Long blue tail with black bars and white corners
    • Distinctive blue crest
    • Blue, black, and white patterned wings
    • Blue back
    • © Jeff Hurd/PFW, December 2008
  • Adult

    Blue Jay

    Adult
    • Bright blue upper parts
    • Long shape
    • Sexes similar
    • © Gary Mueller, December 2008
  • Adult

    Blue Jay

    Adult
    • Gray breast
    • Black collar
    • Heavy black bill
    • © Will Sweet, Sharon, California, December 2008

Similar Species

  • Adult

    Western Scrub-Jay

    Adult
    • No crest
    • Blue cheeks and nape
    • Brownish gray back
    • No white in wings or tail
    • © lee.karney2, San Francisco, California, February 2007
  • Adult

    Steller's Jay

    Adult
    • Very dark overall; head and shoulders dark gray or blackish
    • Underparts dark blue
    • Crest dark gray or blackish
    • No white in wings or tail
    • © Bob Scott, British Columbia, Canada, August 2008
  • Adult male

    Eastern Bluebird

    Adult male
    • Pale unmarked blue upperparts and head
    • White underparts
    • Reddish brown chest
    • Fairly short tail
    • No crest
    • © Debbie McKenzie, Alabama
  • Adult

    Pinyon Jay

    Adult
    • No crest
    • Pale blue overall
    • No white in wings or tail
    • © David F. Smith

Similar Species

Steller's Jay has less white in the wings and its head and chest are black with much darker underparts. Scrub-jays don't have a crest and have solid blue wings and tail rather than black and white barring.

Backyard Tips

Blue Jays prefer tray feeders or hopper feeders on a post rather than hanging feeders, and they prefer peanuts, sunflower seeds, and suet. Planting oak trees will make acorns available for jays of the future. Blue Jays often take drinks from birdbaths.

Find This Bird

Blue Jays are most often detected by their noisy calls. Near shorelines they migrate in loose flocks; you can recognize them by their steady flight, rounded wings, long tail, and white underside. Resident birds may associate in flocks; they usually fly across open areas one at a time, often silently. Also watch for them at feeders.

Get Involved

Keep track of the Blue Jays at your feeder with Project FeederWatch

Look for Blue Jay nests and contribute valuable data about them through NestWatch

You Might Also Like

How Can I Quell the Invasion of Blue Jays at My Feeder? An answer from Cornell Lab of Ornithology director John Fitzpatrick

Two Jays, from East and West: Scientists have a lot to learn about these bold birds

What Are Those Jays Eating? Northeastern Blue Jays have a fondness for house paint

Have you seen a bald Blue Jay? Read our web page on bald-headed birds.